Optimistic economists weigh in on climate change

A group called Economics for Equity and the Environment released a report today detailing their predicted costs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  According to this article in the Washington Post, the cost could be as low as between one and three percent of the country’s GDP each year to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm) from the current 387.

The groups emphasizes the 350 number, saying that a 450ppm limit, put forth by many climate experts, would be far too much to avoid the negative impacts of ocean acidification, sea level rise and severe droughts.

The report itself focuses on calculating the least-cost way of achieving the 350ppm goal by either the year 2100. A few of their requirements:

(1)    Coal burning must be completely phased out or achieve 100 percent capture efficiency of carbon capture by the year 2030.

(2)    Oil and gas reserves can be used freely according to the IPCC estimates of their reserve levels.

(3)    Ending deforestation and initiating large-scale reforestation would have to bring land-use carbon emissions to zero by 2015 and become a force of carbon sequestration by 2030.

As much as we all want attitudes about greenhouse gases and reduction of energy use to change for the better (see this recent post), these projections strike me as severely optimistic.  The small price tag is tantalizing, but doesn’t this goal seem too farfetched?

Read the whole report here. I welcome your thoughts.

Author: Christine Buckley

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1 Comment

  1. It does sound optimistic. It’s worth noting that those three points are for the more ambitious of their two plans, for 350ppm by 2100. They also offer a by-2200 scenario, which is still optimistic, but not so extreme. And it’s encouraging to see people considering how such targets might be met.

    My impression is that they’re focussing only on how much money it would theoretically take, and not on the practical questions like “where are all those forests going to go?” and “where will our electricity come from?” I appreciate that money is what economists study, though.

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